BOGOTA, Colombia, Dec 28 (Reuters): Marxist rebels killed 28 Colombian soldiers on a mission to destroy coca plants Tuesday, the worst blow against the military for years as tensions rise ahead of 2006 elections.
The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, attacked the soldiers near the town of Vista Hermosa in southern Meta province, an army spokesman said.
The soldiers were providing security for another army team which was manually destroying the raw material of cocaine, the army said, without giving further details.
It gave the death toll as 24, but the defense ministry later said that 28 soldiers had been killed in the attack.
Both the 17,000-strong FARC and illegal far-right paramilitary militias set up in the 1980s to combat them fund their operations through Colombia's lucrative cocaine trade.